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Unfortunately, Valenciennes were not reading the fairy-tale script for the Parisien faithful last night as they turned out to be the biggest party poopers in Paris. The 1-1 draw was not enough to seal the title this weekend and the wait will have to go on for the time being. However, the real story of the night was the controversy surrounding referee Alex Castro who sent off Thiago Silva to the sheer disbelief of the Parc des Princes.
Credit must go to the visitors. They came out the blocks so fast in the opening quarter of an hour, pressing high up the pitch, harassing us when we had possession and were giving us a taste of our own medicine on the counter-attack. Gael Danic was instrumental in that ploy and it was only fitting that it was him that opened the scoring. He reacted quickly to turn in the rebound via Vincent Aboubakar’s shot that was parried out by stand in Nicolas Douchez, with Salvatore Sirigu suspended.
In fairness to us, we did respond. We had the vast majority of possession and began to ask questions at Nicolas Penneteau’s penalty box. Zlatan Ibrahimovic had a golden chance to level things up, looping the ball over the goalkeeper but opted to undertake an audacious flick instead of putting his foot through it.
Then, minutes before the interval the real drama occurred. Incensed by the majority of cards and the feel of injustice at giving VAFC a throw in – which PSG felt was theirs – the skipper went over to make a point to the referee. In doing so he puts his hands on his chest which drew Castro to instantly reach for his top pocket to brandish the red. The Parc was absolutely deafening as the heckling Parisiens seemingly bade for blood. Silva was in astonishment, so were his teammates and those watching in the stands. But, was Castro right to send him off? By the letter of the law, yes, but by sheer common sense, no. Silva in no way put his hands on Castro in a robust manner but the rulings say otherwise. He put his hands on him therefore, red card.
At full-time, cameras picked up director of football Leonardo seemingly body checking the referee in the tunnel. There are even reports today that could result in a points deduction but there is no official word yet so I will not speculate.
After the break we peppered the VAFC penalty box. It took really to the last quarter for us to conjure up any clear cut chances. The introduction of Kevin Gameiro and Christophe Jallet certainly gave us fresh legs and more impetus. Alex, who had come on as an immediate replacement for Jeremy Menez after Silva was dismissed, got the all-important equaliser with a bullet of a header.
In the end, despite the rapturous Parc rooting the lads on, it ended as a draw which resulted with an appreciative round of applause by the fans who acknowledged the effort the 10-men put in. Would things have been different with a full rota on the pitch? Most probably, but Valenciennes were worthy of their point.
It is just a matter of time before we can finally end 19-years of under achievement in Ligue 1. Victory at the Stade de Gerland next week could be as conclusive a title win as any, obtaining it at the club that has dominated French football for nearly a decade. Lyon set the blueprint all those years back and we want to follow it with an era of dominance. Just need to seal this one first.
Keep the faith!